Senior Sports Reporter
WARRIORS talisman, Khama Billiat, could become the latest key player to miss the international friendly match against the Flames in Blantyre on Sunday.
The 30-year-old Kazier Chiefs star was scheduled to undergo another Covid-19 test, yesterday, which meant he could not fly into Harare as scheduled.
“Khama has, since early today (yesterday) been trying to secure a flight straight from Johannesburg to Malawi and got a seat on one, which will take him to Lilongwe,’’ sources said.
“He has been trying to find the best way he can travel from Lilongwe to Blantyre, even if it means hiring a car, for someone to take him where the game will be played.
“He has been taking regular Covid-19 tests, as per his team’s requirements, and the latest one was supposed to be yesterday when the team was finally named.
“Remember, the situation regarding the team has been fluid and no one was so sure that they would be included, in the final squad, or whether some changes were going to be made.
“Even the game itself was hanging in the balance until today and that has complicated issues a bit for some of the players who need to be guided by their club protocols in terms of how and when they should take such tests.’’
The Warriors will cap off a chaotic week of preparations when they take a 600km road trip to Blantyre today.
The match, which hung in the balance for most of the week because of delays in securing permission from authorities, was only confirmed on Wednesday evening by the Sports and Recreation Commission.
The road trip usually takes about eight to 10 hours.
It will be a throwback to their infamous tour to Malawi, for their 2017 AFCON qualifier, when Callisto Pasuwa was the head coach.
Billiat scored the winning goal during that tour of duty,when the Warriors arrived just hours before the match.
This is going to be coach Zdravko Logarusic’s first assignment since his appointment in January.
The Croat named a weaker 18-member squad yesterday, including nine home-based players, after failing to secure the services of the majority of his foreign-based stars, including skipper Knowledge Musona.
ZIFA spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela, said they had no option but to take the road trip after they failed to secure flights to Malawi.
“The team will leave early in the morning tomorrow (today) by road. We had wanted the best for our team but the only option available, at this juncture, was to go by road,’’ said Gwesela.
“There are no flights to Malawi. It’s difficult travelling because of the Covid-19 restrictions.”
The ZIFA spokesperson said the chaos, which characterised the countdown to the international friendly match,was because of the late clearance they received from authorities. ZIFA have been accused of sending their application, for clearance, as late as last Friday.
However, the football authorities insist they sent their paperwork to the Sports Commission within the stipulated time.
“We sent our request to the SRC well in advance and they have in their possession the various correspondences which we sent to them, reminding them about this tour,” said Gwesela.
“The (squad) list would have been announced before the commencement of the international break, as is the norm, but the announcement had to be delayed until we had clearance from Government to travel to Malawi.
“The Government approved our request to travel to play Malawi on (Wednesday) 7 October 2020.
“Due to travel embargoes in place because of the Covid-19 pandemic, some players from abroad whom the coach wished to assess will not make it for this match.
“Consequently, the technical team incorporated nine locally-based players into the team, with one eye on the upcoming 2021 African Nations Championship.’’
Logarusic had wanted to travel with his best foreign-based players for this match to prepare for next month’s back-to-back AFCON qualifiers against Algeria.
The coach had wanted to see the likes of Musona, Marshall Munetsi, Tino Kadewere, Tendayi Darikwa, Adam Chicksen, Jordan Zemura, Victor Kamhuka, Macauley Bonne, Kundai Benyu, Prince Dube and goalkeeper Martin Mapisa.
However, a number of letters inviting the targeted players were either sent late or ended up at the wrong clubs.
Munetsi’s French club, Stade Reims, wrote to ZIFA telling them he would not be released because their request came late.
The Warriors have no team manager, and this has compounded the situation.
The technical team were forced to pluck from Zambia the likes of Takudzwa Chimwemwe of Buildcon, Jimmy Dzingai (Nkana) and new boy Tanaka Chinyahara from Red Arrows.
But, half the squad is made up of locally-based players who haven’t played a competitive game this year and there are genuine concerns about their match fitness.
The players are likely to conduct light workout tomorrow and Logarusic is aware of the huge challenge that awaits him.
Gwesela said the local players will be tested for Covid-19 before mingling with their foreign-based counterparts.
“Everyone is going to be tested for Covid-19 so that we minimise the chances of spreading the disease in the camp,’’ said Gwesela.
“Results take two hours to process. The players will only assemble after they have seen their results.”
In contrast to the mayhem in the Warriors, Malawi have been in camp for the past week and even forked out US$24 500 to charter a plane to Zambia for their other friendly match on Tuesday.
The Flames will travel to Burkina Faso for their 2021 AFCON qualifier by a charter plane next month.
FAM have been conducting a series of Covid-19 tests, using the funds they received from FIFA, since last month when the locally-based players began camp at their esteemed base, Mpira Village.
Warriors squad for Malawi friendly
Goalkeepers: 1. Talbert Shumba (Triangle United)
2. Nelson Chadya (Ngezi Platinum Stars)
Defenders: 3. Ian Nekati (Chicken Inn)
4. Qadr Amin (Ngezi Platinum Stars)
5. Alec Mudimu (Sherriff Tiraspol)
6. Takudzwa Chimwemwe (Buildcon)
7. Teenage Hadebe (Yeni Malatyaspor)
8. MacClive Phiri (Sekhukhune United)
9. Jimmy Dzingai (Nkana FC)
Midfielders: 10. Marvelous Nakamba (Aston Villa)
11. Tanaka Chinyahara (Red Arrows)
12. Ishamel Wadi (CAPS Utd)
13. Khama Billiat (Kaizer Chiefs)
14. Wellington Taderera (Ngezi Platinum Stars)
15. Phenias Bamusi (CAPS United)
16. King Nadolo (Dynamos)
Strikers: 17. Charlton Mashumba (Polokwane City)
18. Stanley Ngala (FC Platinum)